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A Good Trainer Can Be Key To Reaching Your Fitness Goals

By Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — “Hate me now! Love me later!”

That’s what my kickboxing instructor used to sing-scream in the middle of class, usually when we were doing our third set of 20 burpees.

She read my mind.

I did hate her.

She’s the kind who doesn’t need a microphone — BUT USES ONE ANYWAY. She picks dance techno music that would be no slower than 140 beats per minute.

She yells at us during tuck jumps, jumping jacks, squats, back kicks, roundhouses and uppercuts. She yells at us for going too slow around the track. She yells at us during wall sits that turn your quads so numb you can’t even stand after them, you have to sink to the floor, roll over and then get up, looking like you’re on skis at the bottom of Alpine Valley.

I am absolutely certain that she slams a can of Red Bull before every class; she has so much energy it’s sick.

I stagger out of class once a week looking like someone had just pushed me through a car wash — without the car. Hair completely disturbed out of a headband and ponytail, sweat falling off my eyelashes, shirt a different color than it was an hour earlier.

But I knew if I could survive that class, and her, I could handle whatever was thrown at me that day. She is the best kind of trainer because she is tough, but not mean.

Count me as one of the converted. I believe in gyms — especially in our Wisconsin climate — and now in personal trainers and group exercise leaders. They got me off my mindless jog and filled a bulletin board with participation medals and racing tags from mud runs and obstacle course races and half marathons.

I know, I know, some of you hate the suggestion (or maybe the cost) of needing a trainer to be fit. I give you all the credit in the world if you can keep yourself fit and fearless on your own without a coach or guidance. Honestly, I respect and admire the self-motivated so much.

I need a nudge on the good days and a swift kick on the others, and constant reminders to get my butt down in planks and my elbows in on triceps lifts and my back straight on rows.

When I’m looking for more than good health — when I want to be as strong and as fast as I can — I look to a group exercise trainer to show me the way.

I’ve come to appreciate a really good group exercise trainer and instructor for more than their whip-cracking motivation. They teach us how to lift, bend and twist to minimize injury. They show us the right technique, so the exercise is done for our greatest benefit. And sometimes they drown out the negative voice in my brain that is always pointing out my perceived limitations.

I’ve come to think of a really good trainer and instructor as an extension of the health care profession, because they help me eat better and take care of my body, keeping me away from doctors and hospitals.

But one thing I’ve learned is that I really respect the trainers who are not just passionate but knowledgeable. If you’re working with a personal trainer either one-on-one or in a small group exercise, don’t be afraid to ask for his or her certifications, credentials and qualifications.

Some trainers have college degrees in the exercise sciences and hard-earned certifications; others get certified in three days. It is worth it to find out who you’re working with.

Here are some things you could consider:

Look for nationally recognized, meaningful certifications like ACE, NSCA and ACSM.

Rick Mikat is the director of the exercise and sports science program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the largest health and fitness program in the state with 800 students enrolled in the various specialties.

He said UW-La Crosse recognizes three certifications as the best in the fitness industry: ACE (American Council on Exercise); NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine).

“Those three are the biggest most respected, and the most rigorous too,” he said.

Other good certifications also include NASM and AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).

“Students completing the National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal training program also learn about using assessments to create programs specific to each client and use a proven training system called the optimum performance training model,” said Mike Fantigrassi, NASM’s director of professional services. He is a NASM certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT), corrective exercise and performance enhancement specialist in Chandler, Ariz. “By obtaining and maintaining certification, it demonstrates a commitment to the profession. ”

“There are hundreds, but only 13 or so that are currently NCCA-accredited, which is a gold-standard litmus test that consumers can use to assess a personal trainer’s credential(s),” said Neal Pire, a medical wellness implementation specialist from HNH Fitness in Oradell, N.J.

“NCCA provides a stamp of approval that legitimizes such a certification, which ensures for the public that they are getting what they are paying for.”

Four-year college degrees.

UW-La Crosse offers fitness degree core classes in basic anatomy, physiology, sports nutrition, exercise physiology, human motor learning and biomechanics to undergraduates on the fitness track. There are also kinesiology, human performance coaching, athletic training and other fitness related programs.

Experience and references.

Professional experience, liability insurance and loyal customers are helpful indicators to look for when considering using a personal trainer.

“Keep in mind that certification only provides minimal competency,” said Grace DeSimone, a certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor with ACSM and the editor of “ACSM’s Resources for the Group Exercise Instructor.” She is based at Fitness Plus One in New York City. “Certified fitness professionals have made a commitment to provide safe, effective exercise programs based on industry recognized best practices.”

“Certification by itself does not ensure someone is a good trainer,” Fantigrassi said. “You would want to interview the fitness professional to see how they’ve worked with clients with similar goals, have the trainer take you through a workout, and speak to other clients for feedback. It is also a good idea to find a trainer that has a coaching style and personality that is a good match for you.

“A personal trainer is there to coach, hold accountable, and provide information about fitness. A good personal trainer will interview the client to find out what their goals are and create a plan to achieve the goals. They will regularly assess the client and make adjustments to the program to keep progressing to the goal. Finally, they should make exercise enjoyable and sustainable so they continue to exercise, even if not working with a personal trainer.”

(c)2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo via Flickr

Boot Camp For Functional Fitness

By Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)

MILWAUKEE — Many things may come to mind when you think of a fitness boot camp — and a lot of them may be pretty intimidating. The name alone can send people in the other direction.

But Margaret Erhart, 53, takes the Metabolic Circuit Conditioning boot camp at Fuel Up. Go! Fitness & Nutrition on Saturday morning for one reason.

“When I haul my 40-pound bag of kitty litter in from the store down to the basement, I can do that,” she said during a 10-second rest between exercises at her boot camp.

She can feel her strength when she cleans out her gutters.

She does it for functional fitness.

And this is why gyms and workout facilities with classes like boot camp are worth considering.

Yes, some work out to try to look good in a swimsuit and others work out for a certain number on the scale. But what often gets overlooked is how much stronger and healthier we are while managing everyday tasks because of this style of intense interval training.

Most boot camp classes follow a basic format in a 45-minute group exercise class — meaning there’s at least a handful of participants, and often a lot more — led by a trainer.

The trainer sets up stations with a different exercise at each one. Some are cardiovascular, others work on upper- and lower-body weight training, and others are for core. Each exercise is performed for 45 seconds (this can vary from 30 to 90 seconds). Then there is a short rest while everyone switches and rotates to the next station.

The goal is to go as hard as possible for those short bursts.

This 45-second, 45-minute workout formula appeals to the masses for a lot of reasons.

It’s efficient.

“If you don’t have a lot of time, this is a perfect thing for you to do,” trainer Lauren House said. “We go hard for 45 minutes, and at the end people are drained.

“We’ll usually have eight stations, and you’ll go through each four times. Metabolic means it will burn a lot — in a little bit of time.”

You probably don’t need more than a 45- to 60-minute workout every day.

“Males and females, we both have testosterone,” said Eric Gramza, the owner and trainer of Fuel Up. Go! “Testosterone is that anabolic, building component that we all want to have released when we’re exercising, when we’re strength training.

“Those basically peak and fall within 60 minutes. So, unless you’re training for an athletic event that’s going to take longer than 60 minutes, you don’t need to exercise for longer than that.”

Accountability. Group exercise classes create a team atmosphere.

“They do a lot of these classes with partners,” Erhart said. “There’s a lot of teamwork. So that will get you motivated to get here. You’re obligated to the group, to each other.”

Good coaching.

Some days the only motivation you’ll have is to show up for class. Just get there. If you have a good trainer, that’s all the motivation you’ll need.

“The leaders, Lauren and Eric, I think they care passionately about each of us,” said Erhart, a softball player, cyclist and kayaker. “What we’re doing, what the program is doing for us, and that we attend.”

You don’t want your “truck tires spinning in the mud.”

Many people can go work out on their own. But there are some exercises that are best to do with the right form, both to avoid injury and to get the most benefit from doing it. A watchful trainer will check to see that we’re doing it right. Is the caboose down on a plank? Are the elbows tucked in on triceps and biceps work? Are we doing squats the best way to protect our knees?

“People can go to the gym for 60 minutes and look at what others are doing, or do something they’ve seen on the internet. Sure that’s better than sitting on the couch,” Gramza said. “But it can be like truck tires in the mud.

“You can hammer on the gas and go 75 miles an hour. But you’re just spinning your wheels and not really going anywhere.

“You’re making the time investment. You might as well get the most out of it. Exercise is really a science.”

Gramza and House are certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists, qualifications that help them teach their clients the best, safest and most efficient way to work out.

This is a proactive step in your long-term health. It is an investment.

Tom Burzynski, 50, and his wife Marsha, 53, have been doing this Metabolic Circuit Conditioning with Gramza for nine years.

“We took a look at friends and family members who had a lot of health issues and were older than us,” Tom said. “We decided that we didn’t want to have poor health as we got older. We wanted to stay healthy, not put on as many pounds — but it really helps your mental outlook, too. We tell Eric and Lauren we could have a really bad day, but we always leave here in a better mood.”

It helps in coming back from injury.

Amy Jacobs, 31, a regular Ragnar Relay runner, has used this boot camp for the last year as a way to diversify her rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. She does the high-intensity, interval training class on Thursdays and the Metabolic Circuit Conditioning on Saturdays.

“It’s helping me get back in to shape,” Jacobs said. “I use to run a lot of half marathons and I’m trying to get back into that.”

It’s very hard to get bored in these classes.

“No. No way. They’re always different,” Jacobs said.

(c)2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: David Albo via Flickr